Black and Hispanic community leaders held a Feb. 3 press conference to express their disgust at seeing a video showing Houston police officers allegedly punching, stomping, and kicking a Black teen last March while he was handcuffed.
“This is a tragedy repeated one more time in Harris County. The community is standing here today to say we are outraged at what has transpired. While others were trying to cover it up and had managed to keep it out of the public eye, the truth is finally coming out,” said D.Z. Cofield, president of the NAACP Houston branch.
The video was released publically for the first time on Feb. 2 to the local KTRK-TV Channel 13 news station by community activist Quanell X, who said he legally obtained the tape. He further said he had planned to hand it over to all media outlets but was stopped in his tracks by a state district judge’s temporary restraining order prohibiting further release.
Despite describing “racist threats” made against him via his Facebook page and office phone, he decided to show the unedited version of the incident on a laptop during the press conference. The video was recorded by a surveillance camera on March 24 at Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage located in the southwest area.
The footage shows then 15-year old burglary suspect Chad Holley being chased by several officers on foot and in patrol cars. After jumping over the hood of a patrol car as it jams into a fence, Mr. Holley lays down in the grass on his stomach with his hands up before officers descend upon him. Then one officer appears to stomp Mr. Holley’s head and other officers land several more kicks to the face after he’s been handcuffed.
Another officer appears to deliver multiple punches to the abdomen just before the first officer to do the stomping returns again to kick Mr. Holley in the legs. The teen is then escorted to a patrol car.
Under the orders of Houston police Chief Charles McClelland, eight officers were suspended within three days of obtaining the tape last year. Five officers received two-day suspensions and three other officers were fired without being charged. Two of the fired officers were able to obtain their jobs back due to an appeal.
In June, officers Raad Hassan, Andrew Blomberg, Drew Ryser and Phil Bryan were indicted on misdemeanor suppression charges and terminated. Mr. Hassan and Mr. Bryan were also charged with violation of the civil rights of a prisoner. All four cops pled not guilty and are slated to stand trial in August.
Last year, a request from Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos to ban the release of the footage was granted by a federal judge. “Despite the tape’s release, we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that both the state and the defense are given a fair trial,” she said.
“I was shocked and disgusted when I first viewed this tape. My feelings haven’t changed. The city of Houston has fully supported the district attorney’s desire to keep this video from being released prior to trial because we did not want to do anything that could jeopardize the prosecution of the police officers involved,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker, in a statement after the video was released.
“Whoever provided the video to Channel 13 is in violation of a federal court order and should be prosecuted. It is unfortunate and irresponsible that Channel 13 has chosen to air the material at this time,” said Mayor Parker.
“I am shocked and appalled that Mayor Annise Parker would call for my prosecution. Why do you want to prosecute a man who committed no crime? These police officers are public servants in uniform in the public eye, captured on a tape in public, I believe, committing a crime,” said Quanell X.
Mr. Holley, now 16, was convicted in the burglary case last October and given probation. Rev. James Nash, who represents the group Ministers Against Crime, made it clear that Mr. Holley’s crime was not supported.
“We do not condone the behavior of any criminal. This young man stood in a court and received a penalty for his misdeeds. We condemn the actions of these officers. This is criminal activity from the very people that should be protecting us,” said Rev. Nash.
“This never ever should have been kept from the people. What’s on that tape the world will get to see now how they truly behave in public when dealing with Black and Brown men. Chad Holley never resisted,” said Quanell X.
State Rep. Borris Miles, D-Houston, said he is taking steps to call on Texas lawmakers to address the issue and get the attention of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“This is about rogue cops. We’re going to be forwarding Eric Holder a copy of this tape. These officers on this tape need to be dealt with in a severe manner,” said Rep. Miles.
(The article by Jesse Muhammad originally appeared in The Final Call Newspaper dated Feb. 15, 2011)